Since it's been discussed elsewhere...

And it was getting long I thought I might as well move it here.

Budget. The dirty 6 letter word that everyone hates with a passion. I was talking about my loosely defined budget with someone the other day. Basically this is the deal. I *hate* budgets. Hate 'em. I have good reason for hating them. When I was a student there simply wasn't enough money to go around. I'd try to make a budget but there was never enough to cover all the expenses and eat. In order to make the money "work" I'd end up crafting these *insane* budgets where something as simple as a bag of chips would throw it off. That's not a budget - that's a recipe for depression. I'd go insane trying to stick to this thing and then the pressure would get to much and I'd go insane and go spend money on something that wasn't in my budget. Often it was something like 2 $10 tanktops or something (tanktops were essential in university - old buildings, cold city, cranky heating - either too hot or too cold - layers were essential) or a haircut. And then I'd barely have money to eat or I'd have to pay a bill late (never rent, never ever rent). Luckily this was back before the days of my lingerie addiction otherwise the only clothing I might of owned would have been underthings.

So it took me a loooonnngg time to get around to making liveable budgets. It didn't help that money was tight my first few years after university either. I had it in my mind that budgets had to be *strict*. It took me a long time to grow out of that. I have breathing room. And I can't tell you how fanfreakingtastic that is. My stress level is generally much lower than it's been in years. And I'd like to say that I'm not hiding inside all the time because going out costs money (ok, I stayed at home most of this weekend but that's because I'm exhausted and next week is going to a long one work-wise). Going out does cost money but I can generally afford it. It doesn't concern me that much although since I work from home almost everytime I leave the house it's to spend money. Sometimes that bothers me more than other times (that should change soon with the weather getting warm enough to go play on the boardwalk and at the beach).

I like to think I have a fairly fluid budget. Basically I look at each paycheque and look at what expenses have to come out. My expenses include rent (includes utilities), 3 student loans, 2 credit cards, cell phone, and cable bill (includes cable, internet, landline and long distance - I need the landline for work). And I've started putting money in savings. I get paid every two weeks.

Pay cheque 1 (beginning of month)
1/2 rent, student loan #1, cell phone, both credit cards payments, money to savings

Pay cheque 2 (mid month)
1/2 rent, student loans #2 and #3, cable, both credit card payments, money to savings (expenses are slightly higher with this one but I do get a portion of it back in work expenses - they expense my internet for me)

[You'll notice I make credit card payments twice a month. They are automatic payments. I find this useful and it helps bring down the balances a bit faster. Extra money gets thrown on the larger of the two balances (which also has the higher interest rate). When this one is paid off the amount that is allocated to that will be switched over to the other one. When both are paid off money will go to savings.]

After all those expenses are taking out I have x amount of dollars left over. This money has to be used for food/entertainment/clothing/etc. I do not have a set amount in mind for any of those. It's very fluid. Some weeks I'll spend $100 on groceries - the next week I'll live off my pantry and only spend $20. It really does vary. As do entertainment expenses - some weeks it's $40, some weeks it's $20. Lately I've been trying to live on about $100 a week for all of those. Some weeks it works better than others. I can certainly live off that but at the same time, I don't have to do so if I find out that Eve Ensler is performing The Good Body I have no problem spending a bit of extra money and buying a ticket to see it. Like I said, it's fluid.

If I find at the end of the week/pay period I have extra money I then have to decide what to do with it. Sometimes I leave it any carry it forward if I think I'm going to have extras coming up - birthdays, some extra events, extra expenses (like paying someone to do my tax return!). Sometimes I'll put it on a credit card balance. Sometimes I'll put it in savings. Sometimes I say screw it and spend it on underwear or shoes (a girl's gotta live a little!).

So that's my budget. In terms of budgets, it's not so scary. I could probably cut some expenses and stuff but you know what - I don't want to. I spend years struggling to live on very little. And now I don't have to. And I'm not going wayyyyy to the other side. I'm just comfortable. I'm comfortable with the amount of money I'm spending and saving. I think I've found a decent balance between needs/wants and what I can afford.